Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The scallywags Caleb/Ghost Rider finally caught up with and took out in a grizzly process of elimination return undead and proceed on a trail of carnage to smoke out The Spirit of Vengeance for Round Two.
Commentary: I’ve sat stewing over this review for days since I first read the conclusion to this series, and then I reread it twice. What was I looking for? Well, a better conclusion I guess. The art and dialogue were as good as the first five issues, but the plot fell flat at the end. This series started out as a good horror yarn couched in a super(natural)hero publishing company. In this final issue, however, the story almost did a complete 360 degree turn into the clichés of the comics it was inspired by. On its own Ghost Rider Trail of Tears was a spooky and even scary revenge story. To me it was one of the best “horror comics” available, and I don’t like horror comics. The fact is, most horror comics I’ve thumbed through have zero atmosphere and even less suspense. Trail of Tears had oodles of atmosphere and suspense to my liking. You felt for Caleb and his family’s demise and cheered on the demon who was giving the even more devilish Reagan and his gang their just rewards, slowly, calculatingly and chillingly. The feeling of paranoia and not knowing just when the revenger would strike out of the dark was masterfully executed. The deaths were creative and the just reward for inhumane actions by these disgusting human beings.
It’s been said before but horror works best when some things are just left in the dark, unseen and unknown. That’s what triggers our fear and keeps it lingering long after the lights come on. We still don’t have all the answers. I guess that’s my problem with this last issue. It tries to give all the answers while falling back on what has become super hero cliché, “Nobody ever stays dead.” The emotional impact and satisfaction of the story would have remained in tact had the villains of the piece stayed dead. Their return did nothing for the story and they never appeared a real threat to the Ghost Rider anyway. Caleb turning off the fire and brimstone and returning to his human form for a few moments and then flaming up again took away from the spectral mystique Ennis and Crain had built up previously. I understand this needed to be connected to the modern Ghost Rider, but somehow Caleb’s speech about there always having been and always being a Ghost Rider and the accompanying visuals was too forced an attachement to what’s happening in the present. The series had an epic, legendary feel prior to this issue. This issue makes it seem like it's just connective tissue for the modern Ghost Rider.
I didn’t completely dislike the issue. There were some good character moments and dialogue as when Travis Parham tries to condemn Caleb for damning himself on his trail to revenge. Caleb retorts in so many words, “Travis, you were on the same trail.” Really, what’s the difference if it’s vengeance by demon possession or vengeance by single-minded obsession? Bloody revenge is bloody revenge anyway you slice it. Nice moral issues brought up there. The fact that Travis is permanently marked by his encounter with the Ghost Rider is brilliantly portrayed in the writing and closing frames through Crain’s art. He does a bang up job on this period piece. I’m a sucker for period pieces and somehow Ghost Rider seems to work better for me pre-Industrial Revolution. I like these flashbacks in time to other Ghost Riders better than the modern world version on a motorcycle.
All in all, this was not the ending I was expecting after five issues I really liked. I would read another Ghost Rider period piece by these guys, however, if they stuck to the classic horror staples and avoided the superhero clichés.
Final Word: All in all a nice series by two creators who understand how to scare us, but the tension and horror elements were lost to me in the end.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!